My first impression of the neighborhood was an endless rutted dirt road. Not a country dirt road, lined with trees, giving one the sense of getting back to nature, but a city dirt road lined with endless identical fences of corrugated tin, hot and dusty without a tree in sight. The road went up and up, a slow climb. We bounced over holes and ruts from runoff rain and drainage from the houses with no sewer system. My guide, Aurora, was a 16 year from this neighborhood. How she can tell the difference between all the houses to help us through maze, I do not know, as most of the blocks look pretty much the same to me. After about a half an hour of a snail’s pace up into this “colonia” on the outskirts of Oaxaca city, we pulled up to a house that looked like all the other houses: rusty tin fence, enclosing a dirt yard full of junk and garbage, with a one room corrugated tin hut standing to one side. In this home lived Aurora, her parents and three younger siblings. The kitchen is an outdoor area covered by a roof. There is no running water or electricity; their water is delivered once a week and stored in a 300-gallon tank. Aurora is the third child in the family, her older sister is married and has three children, and her older brother is in prison. Her father works on and off as a mason and mother stays at home. There are schools in the neighborhood, but due to poverty many families do not send their children. Aurora was forced to leave school after fourth grade. She did not attend much that year and did not pass. Since she did not pass, her father thought it was of no use for her to continue and at the age of 10 sent her out to work for the family. She worked outside the neighborhood in the town of Zaachila cleaning homes. At 14 she met a family who was building a church in the area and they invited her to attend. She began to attend services, she improved her reading in bible study and after a year she joined other young people in teaching bible stories to the children in the church. She found she had a gift for teaching and loved to work with the younger children. She spoke to the pastor about her dream of becoming a teacher, but her family refused to help her continue her studies. The pastor’s family had heard about Casa Isabel and decided to see if the family would allow her to leave. It was a struggle because after years the family had become dependent on her work and was not happy to see her go. With gentle persuasion over several months the church was able to persuade the family to let her have a chance at her dream. Casa Isabel staff investigated “open” school systems, as she was too old to go to a regular primary school. The staff located a system where she could study at home and advance at her own pace. She came to Casa Isabel this month and enrolled in school, and started again down the path to her dream.
The beginning of the school is here and with it Centro de Compartimiento welcomed seven new students: three high school students, two university students and one student who will be studying primary school. The young women currently in the program range in age from 14 to 25 years of age and come from a variety of backgrounds, the common thread being their families’ inability to help them continue school. We are very happy to be growing and reaching out to new students. We have room for only two more students this year, one at each of the two houses, and if we want to keep growing we will have to expand our funding base and living quarters. We still need more funding to complete this school year and are looking for support on a monthly basis for each girl to finish her education. You can sponsor a student on a monthly basis at the level you choose, we encourage sponships from $35 USD a month to help with room, board and school expenses. Donations can be made through our partners in the US, Center for Sharing, or to give directly in Mexico please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Doing it by Hand
We at Casa Isabel are very excited about our new property, but the house needs a lot of work before we can live there. It is currently a one room warehouse that needs remodeling. Even though we don’t live there we have to maintain the property. Long grass is a haven for mosquitoes and, in a region plagued by dengue fever, the neighbors are very vocal about keeping the yards clean. The young women are kept very busy this rainy season with all the yard work. It is not easy to keep up yard work on two homes, especially when you have to do it by hand. I remember an old push lawnmower that we used to have and how I was so happy when we got a motorized lawn mower. Now, as we hack at the ever growing plants with machetes, I dream of the push mower. The house has a green area that is about forty feet by ninety feet, all weeds. There are few homes with lawns here as most people keep their yards with just dirt or gravel. Well, it is good exercise and we are outdoors a lot. Soon the rainy season will end and we will switch from hacking weeds to raking leaves. At least the compost pile is growing and in a few months we should have some nice dirt to start a small garden. In the meantime we planted some trees. No home in Mexico is complete without a lime tree, so we planted two. Lime juice is a standard condiment at most every meal. We also planted two shade trees on the street and we transplanted a nanchi seedling that was growing where we rent. The nanchi, a favorite here in the region, is a small yellow berry that is made into sweet mash or cured. We hope to find funding soon to divide the house into room and make it livable. Then we will only have one yard to care for.
God bless you all, and thank you for all of your generous support.